The Small Farmers Association, Today as Yesterday / Dimas Castellano

A report released on Friday, January 25, 2013 in the newspaper Granma reports that the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) replaced or “released from their duties” 632 presidents of agricultural cooperatives. The president of that institution, Viego Felix Gonzalez, said at the Eighth Plenum of the National Committee, that a cooperative can not function well if those who direct it do not. The news is proof that what in Cuba is called by the term “cooperative” are actually enterprises created, controlled and directed by the State.

To Gonzales’ approach must be added that much less can a cooperative work well if it ignores its basic principles, defined by ACI (1): “The cooperative is an autonomous decision of persons united voluntarily to meet their economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a publicly-owned enterprise together with a democratic structure, where every associate has the right to one vote and decisions are made by the majority, with an elective management and equitable share, with proportional distribution of the surplus.

The absence of these principles in the agricultural cooperative is related to the removal, after 1959, of the peasant associations which were born in Cuba in the late nineteenth century. Among many others: in 1890, the Neighborhood Associations in the areas of Manzanillo and Bayamo; in 1913, the Farmers’ Association of the Island of Cuba; in 1937, the celebration of the First National Peasant Congress, as well as the committees, federations and peasant unions across the country; and in 1941, the celebration of the Second National Peasant Congress and the creation of the National Peasant Association (NCA) to fight eviction, for the ownership of land, improved markets, prices, credits and income rebates, a movement in which many fighters were killed, among whom was Niceto Perez, killed on May 17, 1946.

In 1960 the leader of the Cuban revolution said: It is necessary for small farmers, rather than being sugar cane growers, tobacco growers, be simply farmers, and we organize a large National Association of Small Farmers. For this purpose some existing organizations were disbanded or merged into the National Peasant Association, which in May 1961 became the ANAP.

In order to reduce the number of independent farmers a policy was defined to “cooperativize” the existing 200,000 peasant proprietors (100,000 that existed before 1959 and another 100,000 who received title deeds with the First Agrarian Reform Law 1959).

On the basis of the National Peasant Association began to be created the first Mutual Aid Brigade and starting in 1960, the Credit and Service Cooperatives (CCS) made up of peasants who maintained ownership of the land and the means of production, but no legal ownership.

In the same year, 1960, by government decision, the Sugarcane Cooperatives were created in areas that had belonged to the sugar companies, but soon were transformed into state property, so that the cooperative was reduced to a few associations made up of private farmers. Fidel Castro himself stated: those cooperatives did not really have a historical basis, since cooperatives are actually formed by farmers who own land, so it was decided to convert them into state enterprises.

Starting from the thesis of the First Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) in 1975, the development of Agricultural Production Cooperatives (CPA) was promoted, formed by peasants who joined their farms and other means of production “voluntarily”; a process in which ANAP concerned itself with convincing the farmers in order to weaken the resistance to giving up with their land and joining cooperatives.

Eighteen years later, in 1993, faced with the inefficiency of state farms, in an attempt to make them produce, they created the Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC), and leased them idle state lands in usufruct.

As we can see, neither the sugarcane cooperatives nor those created later were born from the voluntary union of their associates, but rather they were created by external decisions. Their productive and economic activity was subordinated to the State’s plans to meet the demand of domestic consumption of the population, while the marketing of their products was the job of the State Procurement and Distribution Agency. Thus, the agricultural cooperatives emerged in Cuba and beyond the control of the peasantry and contrary to the need as defined by the ACI Congress in 1995.

Due to failure of cooperatives without autonomy, in August 2012 a package of measures was dictated, and a new general regulation for the UBPCs with the objective of “liquidating” the dependence of these associations on State enterprises. That document states that managers are not cadres appointed by the State, but elected by the members in General Assembly.

Despite this provision and the fact that the President of the Council of State reaffirmed on December 13, 2012, in the last session of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the need to break the colossal psychological barrier that results from a mentality rooted in habits and concepts of the past, the ANAP, anchored in time, replaces hundreds of presidents of agricultural cooperatives, as if we were in 1961 undertaking three strategic missions in the current scenario: work to increase domestic food production; defend the principles of the Revolution, standing with justice for reason; and the political and ideological education of farmers and their alliance with the working class.

This is proof that, along with the introduction of new measures imposed to implement the right of farmers to freely associate, which is impossible to do through an institution which, in addition to having been created from, by and for the purposes of State, continues to act today as it did yesterday.

(1) International Cooperative Alliance developed the principles of cooperatives during its founding in 1895 and enriched them with the Cooperative Identity Statement, adopted in 1995 at the Second General Assembly.

February 11 2013